Psalm 100

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worshipCongratulations on your quest through God’s Word!  Today we arrive at the 2/3 mark through the Book of Psalms.  As we have read through these various hymns and songs which make up the Psalms – we have seen a wide range of emotions… stemming from fear and doubt to despondency to an exaltation of joy.  Psalm 100 is a little psalm which provides us with great instruction on how we should worship the Lord.

I am always amazed at how many people feel that how we worship is simply a matter of personal preference.  Many Christians seem to view worship as wrapped up in a certain style of music or personality.  For instance – if you attend a church where the Pastor has a more conservative personality, then your worship may be more traditional – with just a piano/organ and possibly singing only hymns out of a hymnal.  On the other hand – if your Pastor is a bit on the wild side – your church may have more upbeat music with drums and guitars (and smoke machines).  In fact, churches do cover a wide array of styles…  from loud music to no music at all – but (as in everything we are trying to do), what does God tell us our worship should be like?  Is it really all about personal preference or do we have some guidelines that we should be following?

I believe part of that answer is found in Psalm 100.  Within this psalm are several keys to what it looks like when God’s people gather and worship Him.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come before His presence with singing! 

Know (perceive, recognize, and understand with approval) that the Lord is God! It is He Who has made us, not we ourselves [and we are His]!

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise!  Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name! 

For the Lord is good; His mercy and loving-kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations.

First of all – notice that this begins as a command.  The psalmist makes it quite clear that this is an expectation of those who are God’s people.  According to the psalmist – not only will God’s people worship God this way – but the very land will as well (vs 1)!    Next – notice the word “joyful noise”.  This is the Hebrew word ruwa – and it literally means “to split the ears with sound; to blow an alarm”.   Already this worship service is a far cry from what we see in so many churches today.  It isn’t polite nor soft – but instead is loud and alarming.  It is the picture of a joyful (not depressing) worshiper who is declaring the wonders of God at the top of their lungs!

Next we see that the psalmist speaks of “coming before the Lord presence” this way (vs 2).  He also speaks of “entering His gates with thanksgiving” and “His courts with praise” (vs 4).   These provide us with more details regarding how we should worship our King.  The word for thanksgiving is towdah and it means “an extension of the hand in adoration” and the word “praise” speaks of a song of love and devotion.  This is not simply how we END up in our worship (as if God has to prove Himself to us to deserve our affection)… but more so it is how we ENTER.  The proper time of worship begins with praise and expectation based on what God has already done (namely Jesus on the cross).  We sing and declare our love for Him based on His goodness as revealed in the past… not on what He will do for us in the future.

Finally – the psalmist tells us to “give thanks to Him and praise His name” (vs 4).  The original word for “thanks” is yadah and it means to “revere or worship with extended hands”.  As well, the word for “praise” is barak and it means “to kneel and bless the King as an act of adoration”.  This speaks quite clearly of our body posture during worship.  It is not one of folded arms or hands in our pockets – but instead one of arms lifted in reverence and then bowing over in humble adoration.

Obviously – we are not robots and God is not seeking a people who will simply follow the rules when it comes to worshiping Him, but it also is not all a matter of personal choice.  As Believers – Followers of Jesus – we should be overflowing with love and adoration for our King.  It isn’t the rhythm or whether we “like the songs” which dictates our attitude of praise – but the fact that the “Lord is good and faithful” (vs 5).  When we come together in our faith community, we should already be in the frame of mind as a worshiper of our King.  My emotions – my experiences that week – my present attitude should not be the controlling factor in how much I participate (or don’t participate) in corporate worship.

May this encourage you the next time you gather together to worship the Lord, to throw up your hands and give Him all of your heart.  You just might see other changes in your life come as well!

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Psalm 92 – Worship

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worshipThe fourth book of Psalms covers 90-106 and in subtitled the “Numbers” book due to it correlating with the events recorded mainly in the book of Numbers.  It traces the concerns of the Israelites (as well as us ‘Gentiles’) in their interaction with God as their only hope for salvation.

Here is how Finis Jennings Dake describes it:

“The general theme of Book IV concerns Israel and the Gentiles on earth – the counsels of God revealing no hope for man in the earth apart from God.  It records the walk of man in his earthly pilgrimage to a better world and a better life.  It begins with Israel in the wilderness taking account of themselves (Num 1-8; Ps 90).  It continues with proper order, and instructions for the future (Num 9-14; Ps 91-94), rest anticipated (Num 15-26; Ps 95-100), and the basis for entering into rest (Num 27:36; Ps 101-106).  It concludes with a benediction (Ps 106:48).”

Psalm 92 specifically speaks of man’s worship of God.  Unlike what transpires in most of our churches today – the psalmist speaks of the act of worship in quite dramatic and purposeful terms.  He begins by declaring that IT IS GOOD to praise the Lord (vs 1)!  Praising the Lord is actually what we were all created for… it is our foundational purpose in life.  When a human being fails to correctly offer praise to God he/she will naturally begin to offer that praise to someone/something else.  Since we are created beings – created to reflect back to our Creator – then the act of worship is an already established seed planted within us.  We can no more worship then we could stop breathing… it is what we worship that is the question.

Next the psalmist connects music with this act of praising the Lord (vs 1-3).  Music is also a creation from our loving Creator.  Its purpose is to assist us in our worship of God by helping us express our hearts beyond mere words.  (Today, Satan has warped this beautiful gift from God into a tool that he is using to glorify sin and rebellion… but that was not it’s original purpose!).   Upon establishing the act of worship in the Tabernacle, King David had numerous instruments made for this purpose – and the psalmist mentions a few of these here… specifically the lyre and the harp.  (Today we would say the guitar, keyboard, drums, etc).

Next the psalmist inserts descriptive words such as “glad” and “joy” when speaking of this act of worship (vs 4).  Again – quite a bit different from some churches I have been in!  Our praise of the Lord should be a joyous occasion – filled with music, dancing, clapping and exaltation’s of gladness!   Praise should be our immediate reaction when we consider His great works – in our own lives and the lives of those around us (vs 5).   This is not something that can be faked – nor does one who lacks a relationship with God possess the ability to enter into this sort of praise (vs 6-7).  (Hence why some people come into our service and don’t seem to “get it”).

Finally, the psalmist concludes this mini-lesson on worship with the very Truths that drive our worship.  It is the many promises of God that fills us with life and causes us to proclaim His goodness forever (vs 8).  We – the righteous – will flourish like the palm tree (“be long-lived, stately, upright, useful, and fruitful” – AMP).  We shall also grow like the cedars of Lebanon (“majestic, stable, durable, and incorruptible” – AMP) (vs 12).  Both of these images would have been well known to the Israelites who heard this Psalm – as they grew in abundance throughout the region – tall trees that were very useful for supplies in many areas of their everyday lives.

just like the usefulness of these 2 examples – you and I are promised that we will grow strong and majestic – continuing to be useful in our old age – bearing fruit long after others have stopped – staying “fresh and green” (vs 14)… but all of this is provided on us remaining “planted in the House of the Lord” (vs 13).  It isn’t a promise for the compromising and the “every other Sunday’ crowd – but only for those who are established among His people.  It is for those that God sends His promise – and they will say He is their Rock (vs 15)!

Now doesn’t that give you something to sing about?

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Psalm 88 – Bad Theology

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Blind leading blindToday’s psalm doesn’t exactly uplift us as we read it.  While the psalms written by David, although occasionally peppered with despair and moodiness, typically end up with eyes once again lifted toward God in hopeful expectation – it seems the psalms written by other musicians take a slightly darker turn.  Whether it be Asaph, the sons of Korah, (or in this case Heman the Ephradite – a song leader writing FOR the sons of Korah) – these other various song writers display much less personal revelation when it comes to God and His ways.  That is the case here in Psalm 88.

Heman begins his musical pity party with a statement proclaiming God as his salvation (Rescuer).  Yet, that small attest of faith quickly dissolves as his eyes focus on himself and what he is experiencing.  Let’s quickly go through what Heman says:

“…day and night I cry out to you.  May my prayer come before you;  turn your ear to my cry.”vs 1-2   – Right out of the gate   Heman places himself in the right – as an innocent victim who is crying out for help.  Nothing that he is going to describe is happening due to any fault of his own.  He then basically begs God to hear him (due to his lack of knowing who God is).

Next – in vs 3-5 – Heman looks at his own situation and begins to describe it.  No positive outlook – no confession of faith – simply a lament.  He compares himself to the dead on the battlefield (again… a victim).

Following this – in vs 6-8 – Heman begins to sin by blaming God for what is happening to him.  Just as we saw in Job – Heman fails to take any responsibility for his calamity, instead falsely accusing God for causing these things to come upon him.

           In vs 9 – he writes;  “… my eyes are dim with grief.  I call to you, Lord, every day;  I spread out my hands to you.”   Once  again – this musician fails to understand the reason for what he is going through – instead implying that God is simply not answering his cries for help.

        Then, after more begging God for help (mixed with more accusations – vs 14-16) – Heman concludes this wonderful display of faith by accusing God of taking his closest friends away from him – “You have taken from me friend and neighbor-darkness is my closest friend.” (vs 18).

So – after unpacking these lyrics of Heman – and seeing how far they stray from the Truth about God – we are left with some questions:

Why does God allow psalms like this to be included in Scripture?

What is the lesson to be learned from Heman’s ditty?

Does all Scripture speak Truth?

As par the course – there are no simple answers to these questions.  While a quick search will tell you what most commentators think – I find myself in disagreement with a majority of them.  It seems quite clear to me that there has always been a near universal misunderstanding about God in the eyes of men.   After all – commentator after commentator all seem to stand in agreement with Hamen here – that God is the cause of his affliction – and his job is to plead prayers of desperation.  (Despite the fact that this resolutely contradicts the overall message of Scripture as we have seen time and time again!).

It is my belief that we are not meant to derive our theology from portions of Scripture such as the Psalms.  They are songs – worship – written by musicians who many times were in emotional situations.  Throughout the psalms we see various individuals make erroneous statements while in the heat of passion or calamity… that is NOT the best time to find Truth… nor is it when an individual is at their strongest.  I’m not going to learn from them while they are going through the storm… but rather once they come out the other side.

So then why are psalms like these even in the Bible?  To me – that demonstrates not only the validity of Scripture , but also the true love of God.  He could have just written it all out for us – treating us as if we were robots in a vacuum – but instead He allows us to see that there have been many people who have gone before us and wrestled with the things we are dealing with.  These people were human – made mistakes – had wrong thoughts… yet God has always been good and merciful.  By allowing statements such as Hamen’s (and Jobs) to remain in Scripture, God provides us with the incorrect perspective as a means of steering us toward the true revelation about who He is.

All Scripture does indeed speak Truth – yet only when taken as a whole.  Most of the error we see in the church throughout history has come about when individuals pull snippets of Scripture out and slap it into their already conceived world-view.  Although it looks like it all fits together – in reality the end result stands in sharp contrast to the macro-message of God’s revelation about Himself.

So – as you read through the Words of God to us – try to keep in mind the overall themes and images that we are discussing together.  God is good – God is light – God is love…  Then when we come across statements which seem to contradict these themes we can correctly assess them in context – and not create our own theology, which saves no one.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Psalm 78

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stringing a bowPsalm 78 is what is known as 1 of 4  “Historical Psalms”.  Through 72 verses the Psalmist provides us with a synopsis of the cluttered history of the nation of Israel – God’s favored people.  It lays out 80 mighty acts of God and couples them with 30 sins of Israel – often interchanging between the two.  (Some examples of this are the sins of Israel listed in vs 9-11… followed by the mighty acts of God in vs 12-16.  Again in vs 17-22 and 23-29, etc etc.).

There are many wonderful things we can glean from these “hidden things” (vs 2) that the Psalmist shares with us.  One glaring point is the clear compassion and patience that the Lord God shows towards His people.  As we have seen throughout our reading of Scripture – time and time again God is merciful even as His people rebel and demand their own way.   This cycle of sin and rescue (salvation) is repeated numerous times throughout history (as this psalm so powerfully lays out for us).

One picture that stands out to me is the description of Israel in vs 57.  Here, the Psalmist depicts God’s people as “tempting” and “provoking” God to anger by their stiff-necked and willful disobedience.  He then compares them to a “deceitful bow”.

So what is a “deceitful bow”?

First, remember that the pictures used in Scripture were typically of things the common reader would relate to.  In this instance – almost every man knew how to handle a bow and arrow – not only for hunting but also for defense.  They would have all understood how a bow operates when it was unstrung.  At rest – the bow had a tendency to resist the pressure applied by the string – in essence bending “backwards”.   It took a tremendous effort at the hand of the bowman to recurve the bow into a useable position by forcing it with the string.  A weak or unskilled bowman risked having the bow springing back with such force during stringing that it could break his arm.  (This could happen while discharging an arrow as well… not a good thing!).

A good, dependable bow was described as one that “turned not back”, meaning that it did not turn itself backward to it’s original position, such as Jonathon’s bow in 2 Sam 1:22.   It is the desire of every skilled hunter to train a dependable bow for use in his trade.

“They do not turn to the Most High, they are like a faulty bow.” Hosea 7:16

So both the Psalmist and the Prophet Hosea use this imagery to describe the nation of Israel during this time… in that, when bent toward God (the Master Bowman), she would suddenly spring back to her former position of sinfulness.

May we all avoid the trials of Israel – by being a bendable bow in the Bowman’s hands.

Be Fruitful and Multiply,

PK

Book Three – Leviticus

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psalmsFrom today’s title it may appear that we are moving backwards in the Bible – leaving the Psalms and returning to the book of Leviticus.  But in reality, we are entering the 3rd of 5 divisions of the Psalms (appropriately named after the 5 books of the Torah).  Psalm 73 marks the division of the 3rd book – subtitled Leviticus.  (We spoke about these divisions earlier – but let’s focus on this third section of Psalms).  While the first two books (Genesis and Exodus) deal mainly with God’s relationship to man and specifically the nation of Israel, the third book deals with the Temple (hence it’s relation to Leviticus).

Many scholars believe that the Psalms were collections of songs that parents used to teach their children the history of the Israelites and God’s dealings with them.  Remember, the typical family could not afford their own copy of the Torah – instead relying upon the single copy held in the “Torah closet” in the local synagogue.  In order for the children to learn what God’s Word says, the parents would use the Psalms (songs) as ways to assist them.  As they were collected it became convenient to arrange them in line with the arrangement of the Torah books themselves… according to subject matter.

Psalms 73-89 make up this third book and focus on the sanctuary and its purpose concerning God and man.   17 psalms which speak about the sanctuary’s center of fellowship between God and man – painting it in the central light that it held at that held at that time for God’s people.  It concludes with a double Amen (Ps 89:52) – reinforcing what has been spoken.

Interestingly as well, most of the psalms in this section are not written by David – but by Asaph.  If you noticed at the end of Psalm 72, we are told that the prayers of David are concluded.  That does not mean that David will not write any of the other psalms which we read – but that the 72nd psalm in particular happens to be the final one he wrote… but was placed in an earlier order due to it’s content.

Asaph was one of the chief musicians in David’s court (1 Chr. 15:16-19) – a highly respected psalmist who wrote many classic poems/songs for the Israelite people (2 Chr 29:30).  12 of the psalms of Asaph are included in our book of Psalms – several of which we will read over the next few days.

Be fruitful and multiply,

PK